Orion had precious little time to react. The sorcery came to the tip of his tongue almost unbidden. He had one option at this moment and that was to slow his fall. The wind Elemental had taken him over a hundred feet into the air and if the young adventurer was not able to cast his spell in time, he would certainly die.
Forcing his lips to mimic the song of the meadowlark, Orion spun his magik through the tapestry of the empty spaces before him. Summoning the wings of the heavens, he managed to lighten his weight just enough to feel the rush of wind against his cheeks slow. The spell would have almost worked had he not slammed into the ancient oak tree, the upper branches smashing his jaw and tearing at his palms. He bounced once, twice then cracked his head off the trunk of the massive tree before landing hard at its roots and losing consciousness.
* * *
The moonlight pierced the fog of his scattered brain. As he blinked himself awake, Orion slowly became aware that he had been unconscious for most of the day and well into the night. Shivering, he tried to retrieve his bearings and piece together the events from the day before. He knew that he had failed in his quest, but he was not entirely sure why. The cold, snow covered roots which he lay upon numbed his body and dulled the ache in Orion’s back, but could not help to diminish the sadness in his heart. This was not the way he had envisioned his first meeting with the Elemental.
Of course, he had known that the Elemental would present a challenge unlike any he had ever encountered, but somewhere deep down he had hoped that the herald of the winds would see that his mission was pure and his heart was true. He had secretly wished that he would be able to convince the Elemental that he was worthy of the power to call forth the storms.
But obviously this was not so. The guardian of the wind had seen right through Orion and judged him to be a threat, not an ally. She had turned upon him faster than he could have ever imagined and her wrath was terrifying.
Full of self-loathing, Orion decided it was time to carry his broken body back to civilization. He rolled onto his side and made to push himself up onto his knees, but collapsed in a pathetic heap instead. The pain that shot through his arm caused him to cry out into the unforgiving darkness. He knew instantly that his arm had been broken in the fall. He was lucky to have survived it at all, but this fact did not improve his mood any. He felt utterly beaten when he realized that it was going to take a significant amount of time to recover before he could attempt to track the wind again.
Without his permission, Orion began to weep. The disappointment of the day turned out to be too much for him combined with the new found pain coursing through his arm. Perhaps he should just give up now and let the cold take him. It would not be such a terrible way to die.
It is curious how the wind always settles as the sun completes its journey across the sky and nestles itself to bed in the west. It is as if she is intrigued by the departure and pauses to admire the beacon that shone with such intensity throughout the day. Like the setting sun, you will only command the wind’s respect after your have inspired greatness and suffered much along your journey.
The words of his tutor found their way once more into Orion’s thoughts. He knew that he could not give up now, not when he had come so far. If there was one thing that the old monk had stressed to Orion during his long hours of training, it was that the wind would not be cowed so easily.
Despite the pain it caused him, Orion forced himself to stand. He would make the journey back to town and find a healer if it killed him in the process. This battle was not over yet.
As if to cheer him on, a stiff breeze rose up behind him and helped to push him down the side of the mountain, away for the cliff face where he had suffered his temporary and slightly humiliating setback. Before long the lights from the town below could be seen in the distance. Orion allowed himself a feeling of mild satisfaction for the first time since gaining consciousness in the snow. His legs were still strong and his heart was set upon its mission. The wind had not seen the last of this adventurer. But first he would have to do something about his arm.
When he finally arrived in the small hamlet at the bottom of the mountain the only establishment still open to him was the local tavern. The Blooming Heather was nearly empty at this late hour, but the fireplace had a few logs on it still and the bartender was still pouring, so Orion was pleased enough.
“Are there any rooms left?”
“Aye, there’s one. Two coppers for the room and another for breakfast,” the barkeep answered hesitantly. The old man looked skeptically at him and Orion could tell that his face was not a pretty sight.
“How much for a pint?”
The bartender did not so much answer as grunt and point to the crudely painted signboard on the wall with the prices marked out plainly. Orion ordered a heavy brown ale he had always favored when visiting the northern mountains and settled at a table near the fireplace. His joints were aching, not only from the fall, but from the cold walk as well. The warmth of the fire was refreshing, yet it was the ale that provided the real comfort, helping to numb the throbbing pain in his broken arm.
After three or four more pints, Orion tossed the bartender a handful of copper pieces and staggered up the stairs to the single bed that awaited him. He would have to find the healer in the morning, but for now what he needed was a warm place to rest his battered shell.
Please take the time to comment on this piece if you enjoyed it. I am hoping to submit this short story to be included in an online Magazine and would like to use this blog to receive feedback on the style and substance of the narrative. Any constructive criticisms or editing comments will be appreciated and considered. Thanks in advance for your help with this!